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A familiar face back on top at Pebble, and some new ones too



By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

No it’s not Tiger Woods atop the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am leader board.  But Tiger is certainly prowling at four-under, and could easily have been closer than the five shots back he is now.

Young phenom and two time tour winner Danny Lee and 40-year old upstart Charlie Wi both finished at nine-under par and tied for first.

Lee’s bogey free round was highlighted by five birdies, and two eagles at No. 2 and No. 11 on the Pebble Beach course.  While Wi established a new course record at the Monterey Peninsula course also with a bogey free round, carding a 61 which included one eagle and seven birdies.

But the two were not at the top without company. Three’s company to be exact.

Charging down the stretch with birdies on No. 14, No. 15, and No. 18, two-time defending champion at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Dustin Johnson also joined Lee and Wi for a three way share of the lead at days end.

And if it’s true as Shirley Bassey sings in the movie All About Mary, “I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again.  It’s all just a little bit of history repeating,” then the 27 year-old American Johnson might just be entering the hallowed grounds of Pebble Beach record book lore, joining Jack Nicklaus, Johhny Miller, and Phil Mickelson, as the only other three-time winners of this event.

Maybe there’ll also be a Camaron Diaz sighting sometime this weekend. Back in 2011 Tiger recruited Diaz to help him get a new girlfriend. No one really knows how that turned out however, or at least no one wants to talk about it. OK, so we probably won’t see Diaz this weekend, at least not anywhere near Tiger.

History is on Johnson’s side if you look at the last two times he won here in 2009 and 2010. In both years, he was the first day leader and played the Pebble Beach course.  Yesterday, he was the first round leader, and played the Pebble Beach course.

I know, I know. It’s just the first day. Probably just meaningless coincidence, right?  Well I wouldn’t bet against him.

Johnson was calm and collected, even spectacular at times, showing resiliency and consistency playing the first six holes at six-under, and the last five holes at three-under. And Johnson was in great spirits after the round, tweeting, “Gotta feel good about that round!!! Love it here and my group was a blast!!”

Johnson always likes playing Pebble Beach, and is always comfortable playing here (don’t we all have an aberrational 82 final round meltdown once or twice in our life?)  The course rewards his tremendous length and accuracy, evidenced by him being tied for second in driving accuracy, and averaging just under 300 yards per drive Thursday.

On top of that Johnson is putting absolutely lights out.  In addition to hitting 13 of 14 fairways, and 14 of 18 greens, he took just 24 putts Thursday (ranking him second in the field).  And some of those putts were legitimate dead eye center rolls.  The only thing that could have made Johnson’s putts better (or worse depending who you ask) would have been Bill Murray’s Cinderella Man screaming “It’s in the hole!”

On No. 6 Johnson held the line on a tricky 30-foot eagle, on No. 15 he snuck in a very slippery putt to maintain his momentum on the backside. And on No. 18 he came inside of one-inch to making a putt from a semi-buried lie in the fringe off the green that would have been his third eagle of the round, but settled for a tap in birdie to close his scoring.

Johnson will be there in contention on Sunday. But you know what?  So will Tiger Woods.

The big story remains, and will remain well beyond this tournament, Tiger Woods.  For better or worse, Tiger has become the most over-analyzed, over-scrutinized, over-examined athlete not just on the PGA Tour, but in any professional sport.

Golf writers from every corner of every office down every hallway continue to talk and whisper about Tiger’s fading mystique, or the mysterious process he and coach Sean Foley often refer to, or about Tiger’s self assurance and confidence (or lack there of) Ad Nauseum.

In doing so however, they’re missing out on some pretty good golf.

On Thursday Tiger hit 12 of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, and had 29 total putts. A dominating performance? Of course not. One to keep you in contention to win on Sunday? Absolutely.

Tiger is going to have to win differently from this moment on.  And a win at Pebble would do more to teach him how he must win as he goes forward, than it will answer those anachronistic questions about the old Tiger aura, or the old Tiger dominance.  Those questions are no longer relevant. There is no Tiger aura, no Tiger dominance. And there will never be a return to  the way it was.

Tiger is no longer untouchable, unflawed. Chinks in his amour have been exposed.

But he still has more skill than any golfer on tour, any given tournament. He still has a mental toughness that will pull him through hard times, though now he will need to pull through by accepting these hard times as defeats where previously he rose above them and turned into victories.

The Tiger we see now is the Tiger we’re going to see for the next ten years. One who shows glimpses of greatness, like his approach on No. 10, and No. 11 to start his round.

But also one who will look out of place, and confused, and make very poor shots that he will not be able to recover from. Like his approach shot into No. 4 where he took an incredible six practice swings, and yet another using just his arm, before sailing the green into a natural dune, and limping out with a bogey five.

Tiger will win again, and win often. But he won’t resemble the Tiger who dominated every Sunday, or whose aura was so mysterious and intimidating that it gave him an absolute and complete advantage even before he stuck his tee in the ground on Sunday afternoon.

Those days are gone. Long gone. But that’s OK. And I think Tiger is beginning to get it.  After the round on Thursday Tiger said, “I wasn’t very good with my irons today.  I left a few shots out there that’s for sure.  And the rest of the guys are going pretty low, tearing this place apart.”

This was no admission of defeat by any stretch. Rather, it was a humble, balanced Tiger maybe for one of the first times in recent memory, being true to himself, being real about what he can and can’t do, and thinking about ways to do other things that will still let him win tournaments.

Perhaps, even as early as this week at Pebble.  And call me a dreamer, but I’m anticipating a Tiger Woods-Duston Johnson pairing on Sunday, the likes of which will be a showdown we have not seen in a long, long time. And ironically, will probably be analyzed, examined, and scrutinized for time and memorial.

And in some respects, when Tiger begins to win again, and he will, these wins might be the most magical of his career. Because he won’t be expected, or able to dominate like he once did.  His aura won’t return like it once was. Any given tournament, he may show glimpses of his old self, just not as often, not as regularly, not for four rounds. But he’ll find a new way to win. And he’ll still be Tiger. And that should be enough more times than not to still be the most talented player in the field. He’ll just be a different Tiger.

In other notable tournament news, Ken Duke, who needed a late season victory last year just to ensure he’d be on the PGA Tour this year, recorded six birdies and an eagle en route to setting the Pebble Beach course record on the back nine, shooting a 28, 8-under par.

Nick Watney remains in the hunt with a seven-under, three off the lead, after making small adjustments to his grip at the advice of his coach, Butch Harmon.  Watney moved to a weaker grip to prevent blocking shots which has been a problem for him this year.

Round 2 coverage resumes tomorrow, Friday at 12:00 p.m. PST 5:30 p.m. PST on the Golf Channel.

Click here for more discussion in the forums.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution



The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Tiger changes driver-weight settings, shoots even-par 70 at Honda Classic



After missing the cut by four strokes at the 2018 Genesis Open last week, Tiger Woods is back at it again this week at the Honda Classic; it’s the first time he’s played in back-to-back PGA Tour events since 2015.

Opting for something other than driver off the tee much of the day, Woods made one double bogey, one bogey, and three birdies en route to an even-par 70.

It’s no secret that Woods has been struggling off the tee of late, especially with the driver. He’s hitting just 35 percent of fairways on the year, and he has already made one driver shaft change (going from a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX to a Matrix Ozik TP6HDe ahead of the Genesis Open). According to photos on Thursday, it appears Woods has also changed the weight settings in his TaylorMade M3 for a bit more forgiveness and fade-bias (as pictured above). At the Genesis Open and the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods had the M3 driver weights in the forward position, which moves CG (center of gravity) forward and tends to lower spin.

On Thursday, however, Woods hit a slew of long irons and fairway woods off the tee instead of drivers at the 7,100-yard par-70 PGA National… an approach that seemed to work. Well, he hit just 50 percent of the fairways on the day, but that means he’s trending upward.

One of the shots Woods hit with the driver was so far right it was literally laughable… but he managed to make par anyway.

Actually, his double-bogey 7 on the par-5 third hole (his 12th of the day) came after hitting the fairway; he was fumbling on and around the green after hitting his third into a greenside bunker. That blunder aside, three birdies and an even-par round at the always-difficult PGA National leaves Woods currently in T19, obviously well inside the cutline.

Do you think Woods will make the cut? Do you think he can contend to win the tournament?

See the clubs Tiger Woods has in his bag this week at the 2018 Honda Classic.

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic



GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.


The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

Check out our photos from the 2018 Honda Classic below!

Wednesday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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19th Hole